Making Research Come Alive
Each year, dozens of professionals share insight with students in Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) through guest lectures. One of them, Edwige Winans, associate research director at the Cleveland advertising agency MarcusThomas LLC, was honored with this year’s Sharon Marquis Friends of JMC Award.
The award, named in honor of Sharon Marquis, longtime business manager for student media and senior secretary in JMC, honors an individual who has demonstrated remarkable support to the School’s mission and students.
Winans has presented guest lectures about market research to students in the Public Relations Case Studies course every semester since 2014. Her nominator, Assistant Professor Stephanie Danes Smith, said Winans’ guest lectures stand out because she asks about the challenges students face and tailors the presentation to address those problems.
“She generously shares her expertise on primary and secondary research, using practical and relevant examples from her work at Marcus Thomas, to help our students understand how to conduct research for PR and marketing campaigns, why research is essential and what research can accomplish,” Smith said. “Her presentations are always thorough and professional, and she is patient, accessible, candid and thoroughly wonderful in answering our students’ questions.”
Winans said the experience is equally beneficial to her.
“I like exposure to young minds and different challenges, and that’s what I find there,” she said. “I really like the interaction with the students. ... I always come out refreshed after these discussions.”
Research methodologies and long lists of “do’s and don’t’s” can sometimes intimidate students, Winans said. In her presentations, she focuses on the basics and scalable examples that they can apply in a student setting.
“I look for things that do not require enormous budgets, that do not require tremendous time, but rather things that are achievable within their own setting,” she said. “Otherwise, I don’t believe it would be useful to them.”
Assistant Professor Luke Armour said this is a unique benefit for students.
“She not only informs them of what’s possible, but what’s scalable – that valuable research can be done at an undergraduate level and scale up to corporate-funded levels,” he said.“Her presentation (in Spring 2017) focused on a case study that required only a few out-of-pocket expenses and agency time. The lesson was, ‘your groups could have done this research,’ and that message resonated. It’s about the creativity you put into solving the problems. And to me, that’s the engine that drives public relations.”
At Marcus Thomas, Winans focuses on primary research. She is especially interested in the ways advancements in psychology and other social sciences can elevate market research.
“As other sciences understand people better, marketing research develops tools and approaches that are informed by these sciences, to get deeper into our understanding of people and closer to reality,” she said. “I try to bring to Marcus Thomas some of these newer techniques and approaches I’ve discovered through reading and attending conferences.”
And as technology advances, so will careers in research, she said. The more mundane, repetitive tasks are becoming automated, and researchers like herself now have the chance to focus on strategic questioning and telling the story about what the research identifies.
Winans was raised and educated in France, so until she arrived at Marcus Thomas,
Kent State was never on her radar. But through her presentations and interactions with JMC students in Franklin Hall and through working with JMC alumni at Marcus Thomas, she is impressed.
“The Millennials that we have at the moment who come from Kent are extraordinarily smart young people who are very well-prepared for the workplace and lots of fun to be around,” she said. “They’re well-rounded people.”